Things That I Can’t Explain

He had dinner with the family, and they sent him home with more food than he could eat in a week, but with the chill in the air, he figured the porridge would be just fine. The next day after morning training, he went to the forge to meet the blacksmith. The familiar sound of the hammer striking metal made him miss Gardar more than he thought he could, but he shook it off and entered.

“If you’re here for your father’s sword, you’ll have to wait. I’ve got five more to go in the heat.”

“I’m not,” Bregðask said, “I’m Bregðask, Gardar Herou’s apprentice, and I was told I should come to the forge to continue my training with you while I’m here. You’re Becca Gonnor, right?”

Becca Gonnor stopped mid strike and looked at him the same way that several people on Calder looked at him: in complete disregard. It was obvious that the man was a far cry from Gardar’s kindness and understanding. Then, Becca laughed, and while he had never been a violent person, Bregðask wanted to punch him in the throat.

You killed twelve men yesterday, I think non-violent is no longer allowed on your resume.

The nausea that came with the thought was overwhelmed by the amusement at the thought. It seemed like his subconscious was an asshole.

“When Gardar wrote to me about his apprentice, he made you seem like a one of a kind! He’d said you were on the small side, but he didn’t mention that you were a child. What use could you possibly be in the forge?” He sucked on his teeth as he shook his head, “What am I supposed to do with you? Gardar must have lost his mind on Calder if he thinks you’ll be of use to me!”

“I’m more capable than I look.”

He scoffed and shook his head, “I can’t trust you with a hammer. Go… bring in some more wood or something. At the very least, you’ll stay out whatever trouble landed you here.”

Bregðask walked off before he could hear the rest of whatever the man was going to say, but he still heard it as if he hadn’t moved at all, “What trouble could a little bregða get into anyway?”

He was surprised that rather than a bolt of pain at the remark, there was a flash of anger. He wasn’t a mistake. He’d saved people’s lives just the day before, and no matter what Becca thought of him, he was still a great blacksmith. Rather than retort, he walked out the back door and found that the stack of wood that should have been there was completely empty. Instead, there was an ax buried in a chopping block near a bunch of limbs waiting to be chopped.

Apparently, Becca or his other assistants had let the wood chopping go by the wayside.

Thankful for something to distract himself with, he grabbed the first log off the top of the stack and lay it on the ground. He grabbed the ax and swung, cleaving the wood easily. It felt familiar and good, calming. He could hear people coming in and out of the forge as the blacksmith scribbled furiously on a piece of parchment and tried to managed the orders on his own. Bregðask could guess that it was a letter to Gardar about him, and he hoped that he never had a chance to prove to the man that he could do a lot more than the man thought.

Hours passed and Bregðask lost himself to the easy rhythm of chopping wood. When the whole pile was chopped to more manageable logs, he carried as many as he could to the wood rack outside and carried the rest indoors as the end of the working day approached.

Becca glared at him as he walked towards the indoor wood racks, “It took you all that time to carry in a bit of wood? What are you playing at, boy?”

Bregðask gave him a flat look and promptly dropped the arm full of wood into the bin the man kept near the fire.

“I chopped the entire pile actually, and you’re welcome. Don’t worry about me coming back.”

He’d missed working at the forge, but he’d be damned if he worked with this man who thought him that stupid and incapable. He would just have to find another blacksmith to apprentice under or study the trade on his own. He left out the front door and into the village.

After stopping in the market, he walked to the library. The library on Bjørn’s side was completely filled with the history of the island, the hilmir’s line and a bunch of other things that were only of peripheral interest to Bregðask. There was a small magical section, but it had nothing that he hadn’t read in the library in Calder. On the wall beside the door leading to the bridge was a copy of the agreement that had established the libraries as one and the formal alliance between Freyr and Bjørn carved in the wood panel.

The bridge was half thick rope and a half stone, bridging Bjørn to a sea stack and then to Freyr. He bet if they figured out how to buffer magical items on Bjørn so they worked, they could build the bridge to look less like a death trap. As it stood, he stepped out onto the bridge and felt the familiar and pleasurable jolt of adrenaline as it swayed in the sea wind. For a moment, he simply stood on the large bridge enjoying the way his heart jolted as it swayed with every new breeze over the shallow water below.

He took a deep breath of the salty wind and smiled into it. He wondered if this comfort and pleasure with his racing heart was something native to Ketill or just the aftermath of resigning himself to his future.

I could ask, he thought with a smirk.

He’d been writing to the Hilmir Eldinghögg for years. Now that he knew that he was a member of the man’s tribe, or at least half part of his tribe, there was no reason that he couldn’t at least ask. Hilmir Eldinghögg had never seemed to be unreasonable or unwilling to answer Bregðask’s questions about any subject, so it was at least worthwhile to ask.

He crossed the rope bridge to the stone bridge on the Freyr side and entered the library. The first thing he noticed was the shelves of magic tomes ordered by language. It made his heart flutter, and he approached the nearest shelf almost too quickly, risking tripping into it.

Catching himself on the bookshelf, he looked up to find a book that he hadn’t read yet. Pleasantly, they were all unfamiliar to him, so he grabbed four at random before finding a table and settling in. With a sigh, he opened the book and began to read.

“An interesting selection, young man,” Bregðask looked up at the old man who was shelving a book, “I would, however, caution you not to use anything in that book without first reading the prior work.”

Bregðask looked down at the tome and checked the cover, “I’ll keep that in mind. Thank you.”

“I have never seen you before,” he said, “A new student?”

“I’m actually attending school on Bjørn until I graduate.”

He hummed, “An aspiring mage. Interesting, but those books are far too advanced for you.”

“I have some… informal training,” he said with a smile, “You wouldn’t have anything on wu and gu craft would you?”

He frowned, “What a strange request and how pleasant that you know of such things.”

Bregðask chuckled, “I read a lot.”

The man turned, “We do have a small Asiatic magic section, but it is all in the languages of the countries of origin and no translation spell will aid you.”

“That’s fine,” he said with a grin, “I’m at least decent at languages. Could you tell me where?”

The old man pointed down an aisle of books, “Past the Mediterranean section.”

“Thank you,” he said, “What are the checkout procedures?”

“Magical tomes are not allowed to cross the bridge,” he said, “But you’re welcome to take anything else, though I have a feeling that you are on this side specifically for the magical texts.”

He hummed, “It depends on if you have anything good on engineering.”

He scoffed, “Young man, this library serves a magical college. There are few subjects that I do not have at least one book on.”

“That’s fantastic!”

The old man seemed surprised, but he directed Bregðask to the engineering section and carried on reshelving the books on his little cart. By midday, Bregðask had amassed a large collection of books on his table. A class of students came in around midday. He sighed and sat back, closing a book.

He’d run out of space in his notebook for notes, but it would be okay. After all, he’d be in Bjørn for four years, and he highly doubted any of the books would be going anywhere.

He set the books on the reshelving shelves and stood. Curious, he wandered the shelves. Surely, when his mage classes started he would be spending more time there so it made sense to familiarize himself with the library. As he wandered the shelves, he felt the tension in his shoulders relax as if he’d come home. With the middle of the day passed, he left the library and went back to the little hut more determined and more relaxed.

He cast a look into the distance across the ocean and approached the door. first, he untied the leather cord and set the door aside. With that done, he took measurements of the door and stock of the metal hinge that had snapped from rust.

He measured each of the walls and did a quick calculation of the roof before searching for something that would do to cover his face.

After searching for a short time through the trunks, he found a parcel he didn’t recognize and a familiar scented note on top.

With a smile, he opened it. It seemed that there had been one more gift that Hilda hadn’t given him before leaving. He pulled the note off carefully and read it.

You are sixteen now, and the time is nearing when I can answer all of the questions you must have and apologize for all these years apart.

In my tribe, sixteen is an age where you begin to form your own relationships with people and can show for yourself how you feel about your closeness or distance from others., so I give you this gift.

We call it a trúa ð geyma, or simply a geyma meaning “trust guard.” Children wear the colors of their parents and follow their lead about who to trust, but as a young adult just turned sixteen, I give you a black one just as my father, your grandfather, gave me and my siblings when we each turned sixteen. The color reflects your status on the journey of finding who you are.

At eighteen, you can choose to keep your black one or change colors. The color of our family’s geyma is typically red. The next two years of your life will be ones full of change, and then, we’ll see each other.

Stay brave, my son, and remember that I have always and will always love you.

With a smile on his lips, he opened the parcel and ran his fingers over the soft leather and cloth. Though he pulled the three pieces of fabric and the two lengths of leather cord out, he couldn’t really understand how it was meant to be worn.

Forgoing that, he folded it and wrapped it back up before returning it to his trunk. His smile grew wider as he realize that she had basically told him that he wouldn’t have to wait four years in Bjørn before meeting her. He wouldn’t even have to go find her, she would come for him.

He sat down on the dirt floor, grinning and filled with something that oddly felt like hope. He pulled out sheets of paper to write a letter to his aunt Hilda unsure of what he could and couldn’t say.

By the end of the letter, he’s pretty sure that if Svein ever got his hands on it, he’d have a fit, but he couldn’t find it in him to care.

He’d convinced himself that four years wasn’t a long time, but two years was even less time. He looked over to the trunks of treasure. He’d have to figure out what to do with all of it and everything he owned, but if he had to leave it all behind he couldn’t say that he would be upset about it.

What was a lifetime of things compared to a future full of promise?

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